SACO — Sallie Huot had an idea.

The vice president of the Saco Area Historical Society thought it would be wonderful to compile the stories of the houses of worship in Saco to share with the community. She thought that a book would help preserve the history of Saco.

Now four years, seven editors, and 14 houses of worship later the book “Houses of Worship” is published and out for the community to enjoy.

“I’m torn between being thrilled and relieved,” Huot said of finishing the piece.

When the society set out to accomplish this project, they sent letters to all of the churches in Saco to see who would be interested in collecting and writing the history of the places. At the first meeting to discuss the project, seven church representatives were there. Then the project expanded to include all the churches in Saco.

Then, because Biddeford and Saco are so intertwined, it seemed important to include several houses of worship in Biddeford as well, one being Congregation Etz Chaim, a Jewish synagogue serving both cities.

In February 2008, all who were interested in sharing stories of their houses of worship came to the Saco Area Historical Society meeting. Then an author from each place began work researching and writing its history.

“Most of us had access to people to interview in the area,” said Anne Dobson, the president of the Saco Area Historical Society.

She said that she and the other authors used historical archives from the places of worship as well as old histories and newspapers from the Dyer Library in Saco and the McArthur Public Library in Biddeford.

This process took years to complete, Huot and Dobson said.

Seven editors went over each chapter, revised it, showed their revisions to the author, and then worked with them until both felt satisfied with the finished product.

“I feel like we accomplished a huge thing as a group,” Dobson said of the historical society. “It was so cohesive.”

The Saco Area Historical Society received its first copies of the books this March, and now they are for sale at the Dyer Library and the Saco Museum for $21 each.

There is an introduction by Fred Clark, one of the editors, a piece about John Cochrane of Saco, who stirred up much controversy years ago, and 14 chapters on 14 houses of worship, about 20 to 30 pages each.

The book will inform the community and help preserve history, and so far it has been a success.

“We went into a second printing,” Huot said. “It’s a picture of the history of Saco.”

Dobson said there isn’t a moment of dry reading.

The book is also important because even during the process of creating the compilation, there were changes being made to a variety of the places highlighted.

“We captured that things do change,” Dobson said. “We captured a moment in time.”

 

Staff Writer Ellie Cole can be contacted at 791-6359 or at: [email protected]